Malaysian drug trafficker Nagaenthran was not 'substantially impaired' mentally: MHA

Activists hold placards before submitting a memorandum to parliament in protest at the impending execution of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, sentenced to death for trafficking heroin into Singapore, in Kuala Lumpur on November 3, 2021. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP) (Photo by MOHD RASFAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Activists protesting against the impending execution of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, sentenced to death for trafficking heroin into Singapore, in Kuala Lumpur on 3 November 2021. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images) (MOHD RASFAN via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A Malaysian drug trafficker on death row was "not substantially impaired" while committing the offence, and was found by the High Court and Court of Appeal to have clearly understood the nature of his acts, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday (4 November).

In addition, the High Court found that Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam’s defence of duress, which was fully stated in court, was fabricated. This was subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeal. "Nagaenthran himself resiled from his claim of duress in subsequent proceedings, and accepted that he committed the offence because he needed money, as opposed to having been labouring under any threat."

MHA added, "The Court of Appeal found that this was the working of a criminal mind...It was a deliberate, purposeful and calculated decision on Nagaenthran’s part to take the chance."

Petition for pardon

The Ministry was responding to media queries on a petition for President Halimah Yacob to pardon Nagaenthran, which has garnered more than 52,000 signatures as of Friday afternoon. It stated that the 33-year-old has an intellectual disability and an IQ of 69, a level "internationally recognised as an intellectual disability". He also has impaired executive functioning and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to the petition.

"While on trial, Nagaenthran testified that he had been coerced by a man who assaulted him and threatened to murder his girlfriend," the petition said.

Now 33, Nagaenthran was arrested and charged in 2009 with importing one packet of granular substance containing not less than 42.72 grammes of diamorphine. The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of diamorphine imported is more than 15 grammes.

Nagaenthran was given the death penalty in November 2010. He appealed against his conviction and sentence, and the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal on 27 July 2011.

MHA stressed that he was accorded full due process under the law, and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process. It noted that after the amendments to the death penalty regime under the Misuse of Drugs Act came into effect in January 2013, Nagaenthran filed a re-sentencing application in 24 February 2015, to set aside the death sentence imposed on him and to substitute a sentence of life imprisonment in its place.

The application sought to determine whether he was suffering from an abnormality of mind which substantially impaired his mental responsibility for the offence.

"The High Court dismissed the application on 14 September 2017, having considered all the facts of the case, expert evidence from psychiatrists, as well as further submissions to the High Court. The High Court found that Nagaenthran was not suffering from an abnormality of mind at the time of the offence," MHA said.

On 27 March 2015, Nagaenthran filed a judicial review application against the public prosecutor’s decision to not issue a certificate of substantive assistance under Section 33B of the Misuse of Drugs Act. The High Court dismissed the application on 4 May 2018.

The Malaysian appealed against the High Court’s decisions on both applications, and the Court of Appeal dismissed both appeals on 27 May 2019. His petition to the President for clemency was unsuccessful.

Controversial case

A judicial hearing was set for Monday to hear arguments that executing a mentally disabled person would violate Singapore's Constitution. If the review fails, Nagaenthran would be the first person executed in Singapore since 2019.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said Wednesday he has written to his Singapore counterpart about the case and would extend consular aid to Nagaenthran and his family.

According to a report by Vice World News, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) has written to Nagaenthran's family in Malaysia, informing them that he will be executed on 10 November.

The ministry added that SPS has been in touch with the family by phone and email on a daily basis since 27 October to explain and address any of the family’s queries on the required travel arrangements. SPS has also liaised closely with agencies such as the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority, Ministry of Health and Singapore Tourism Board to smoothen their travel application and make the necessary arrangements for entry into Singapore.

"Upon their entry into Singapore, Nagaenthran’s visitors will be granted extended face-to-face visits daily. SPS will continue to render assistance to the family throughout," said MHA.

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